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California and the West

Haves and Have-Nots Win Lotto Pot

April 10, 1998|CHRIS CHI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VENTURA — Yolanda Starr is the first to admit she doesn't need the money.

After all, for the 45-year-old homemaker in the posh Ventura Keys neighborhood who spends much of the week doting on her granddaughter, life is pretty good.

Life, however, got a heck of a lot better Thursday morning--$16.9 million better, to be exact.

"Yoli! I think you've gotten something here!" yelled her husband, Nick, as he scoured the morning paper for the winning numbers in the $104-million state lottery drawing. Double-checking her ticket, she could hardly believe it: Jackpot!

Holder of one of three winning tickets, Yolanda Starr will split the state's second-largest lottery jackpot ever with a group of 22 people from Bakersfield and an unknown ticket-holder who made a lucky purchase in Santa Clarita.

Aurora Pineda, one of the 22 family members and friends to share the winning Bakersfield ticket, knows exactly what she'll do with her $770,000 share of the prize.

"I want to pay my bills," Pineda, a school bus driver, said at a news conference. "I want to get these bill collectors off my back."

She also hopes to again live under one roof with her husband, who works in Chula Vista to make ends meet.

Enrique Pineda, who works at a Jack in the Box restaurant 235 miles away, couldn't believe his good fortune Thursday. "Now I can be with my family," he said.

For Starr, the sudden windfall shouldn't change her life that much. Right now, the hospital volunteer is pledging only to buy her husband a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and treat herself to a clothes-shopping spree.

"We don't have many problems to speak of, and money's not going to solve the problems we'll encounter," said Starr, who bought the winning Quick Pick ticket during one of her daily shopping trips to a nearby Vons. " . . . We'll just have a little more money to disperse. We have a big family."

Outside the family's ivy-covered waterfront home in Ventura, husband Nick Starr--a controversial former Los Angeles Harbor commissioner whose 1968 bribery conviction was later overturned on appeal--greeted a flood of well-wishers.

"Nick, I need a handout!" yelled one passerby in a pickup.

Starr, who withdrew from the Ventura Harbor Commission two years ago after a stormy four-year tenure, said the family has no plans to move.

"I think I'm already in the best spot in the country," Starr said, joking that he and Yolanda "were hoping Vons would send some champagne over."

The winning ticket would bring $34 million--a third of the $104-million jackpot--stretched over 26 years. But Starr and the Bakersfield group are taking their payoffs in reduced lump sums, netting $16.9 million each before taxes.

Wednesday's drawing capped a frenetic three days of ticket-buying: Statewide sales reached 100,000 per minute at one point. Overwhelmed by the last-minute frenzy, some of the state's 19,000 Super Lotto machines broke down for as long as two hours Wednesday afternoon.

As the delay caused long lines to grow even longer, angry crowds pressed to get closer to ticket machines, and in several communities police were called to prevent violence.

In Oxnard, a man was shot three times for unknown reasons in front of One-Stop Liquor Market after buying a ticket. No one in the long line there stepped out of place to help the bleeding man, employees said.

Valentino Sapien of Oxnard remained in serious but stable condition Thursday with gunshot wounds to his stomach and forearms.

At the Harbor Boulevard Vons in Ventura where the winning ticket was purchased, store employees gathered at the front of the store Thursday morning, frantically combing through dozens of tickets bought in an office pool.

"We thought for sure it was one of us," supervisor Tess Powers said. Then Powers' phone rang. It was her best friend, Yolanda Starr.

"Yolanda, I gotta go. Somebody from the store won!" Powers said.

"I won," came the response. "I won."

In Newhall, Hosup and Manhye Hahn's Valencia Liquor Store was overrun with news reporters and curiosity seekers hoping to catch a glimpse of a big winner who never materialized.

Still, a festive atmosphere was evident. The Hahns said that selling a winning ticket was the next best thing to winning themselves.

"I am very proud that we helped make a millionaire. All the luck is right here," Manhye Hahn said, holding up the right arm she uses to operate the Super Lotto ticket machine.

Of course, the Hahns are winners too. For selling one of the three winning tickets they will receive roughly $170,000, or 0.5% of the ticket's value.

The couple, both Korean immigrants, have been through this before. Last year, a store they own in Sylmar sold a Super Lotto jackpot ticket worth $4 million, netting the Hahns about $20,000.

Wednesday's winning draw was 10, 21, 28, 29, 37 and 41.

Associated Press and Times correspondents Daryl Satzman in Santa Clarita and Pam Johnson and Holly Wolcott in Ventura contributed to this story.

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